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Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa on Friday ordered the Ground Self-Defense Force to dispatch a helicopter unit to flood-hit Pakistan on a humanitarian relief mission.

According to the order, three UH-1 utility helicopters and three CH-47 large transport choppers will be dispatched to the country to airlift flood-affected Pakistani residents, relief goods and medicines.

Before issuing the order, Kitazawa told senior Defense Ministry officials and Self-Defense Forces officers that he expects the ministry and the SDF will “fully utilize their knowledge and equipment and make the helicopter unit’s assistance fruitful.”

Kitazawa earlier instructed the GSDF to collect necessary information on Pakistan in preparation for the dispatch, which will be the first of its kind since 2005, the ministry said.

The move came after the Pakistani government made a request for the Japanese helicopter unit and a Japanese fact-finding mission toured the country.

Tokyo has already announced emergency grant aid and other relief items of up to $14.4 million to help Pakistan grapple with the disaster.

It is estimated that some 20 million people, or about 10 percent of Pakistan’s population, have been affected by the floods, which have destroyed homes, washed away villages and knocked out critical infrastructure.

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